Tag Archives: music

Chris Graham, Digital Strategy Director at Wind-up Records, talks about music marketing, engaging fans and the effectiveness of ThingLink

1. How did you come to be in your current position at Wind-Up?

I started at Wind-up in 2010 and was originally brought in to handle all the labels physical and digital production, as well as digital asset delivery and A&R operations. Being an indie label, we all wear many hats. Having come from a creative background with Universal (was their prior to Wind-up) I grew to take on indie Sales + Marketing, then Digital Marketing and finally to hold my current position of overseeing the Digital Strategy as it relates to Marketing and Sales for Wind-up.

 

2. What are the most important digital trends in the music industry right now? What tools are artists and labels overusing, and what are they under using?

I think the most important trends differ depending on where you are in your career as an artist. For instance, a new band, with no major, or major indie backing them can do so much more than ever before. It’s been said a million times, but you can do a lot on your own now. You can use Sonicbids to book shows, you can sell direct to fans with Topspin, you can get your music on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify and numerous other sites. You can sell it, ask fans to pay what they want, you can give tracks for email and really create a fanbase like never before.

However, having said that, I feel as if I am just repeating what the masses are saying. You still need to separate yourself from other artists. You need to be creative with how you do everything, you need to really have a plan and your plan must be consistent, creative and in-line with what you want your bands image to actually be. And then at the end of the day, your music has to be GREAT.

   

As far as tools, I think it depends on the band and their audience. Twitter and Facebook are obvious and should be used, but sites like Foursquare to offer specials at your shows and drive merch sales and awareness should be considered. Using the basic tools to spread the content in a creative way is far more valuable than spreading yourself thin and trying to establish a relationship with fans on numerous platforms. As a band, use what you would use yourself as a fan and then grow your base from there. Know where your fans are and know how to use the technologies you do use.

I think Flickr, or Instagram works for photos, Foursquare for check-ins, ThingLink for embeds and video promos/photo promos, as well as Facebook and Twitter on a regular basis. You might want to use Google+ and integrate YouTube into that since they tend to go hand and hand, but the most important thing is to not repeat yourself on these platforms. I also think a lot of artists are using Topspin, but I think more should. It feels underutilized to me for some reason. I also think bands are overlooking mobile. Have a mobile website – make sure everything loads on an iPhone and Android, as well as a Kindle and iPad. Do that right now.

 

3. What are the most common mistakes artists and labels make when engaging fans online?

Not asking a question to the fans and thinking that just posting “something” is engaging

 

4. What did you first think when you say Thinglink, and how have you used it with your artists?

I saw what Simple plan did and wish we had gotten to it first. Then we launched some exclusive Evanescence photos with it and they become some of the most shared items ever. I thought it was so simple and effective, that I was actually looking for “what else it did” – it didn’t need to do anything else though – it accomplished numerous items that we use so many other things for. It allowed for sharing, purchasing, following, liking and was engaging and creative all at the same time.

 


 

5. If you could create one killer app or digital tool for artists, what would it look like?

I can’t say because we are currently trying to build the answer to this question.

 

This is the first interview in a series on best practices for using ThingLink in publishing, e-commerce, education, and entertainment. Stay tuned for more.

Interview by Cortney Harding.

 

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Album Covers Go Interactive With ThingLink

by Cortney Harding

Twenty years ago, I went to a record store in a mall in Clackamas, Oregon and bought a copy of Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” I tore the cellophane off the cassette and eagerly pulled out the packaging, looking at the photos of the three strange looking men with odd-colored hair and clothes fresh from the Goodwill. I wanted to know everything about them — based on that one image, I took trips to the library to read Rolling Stone, watched for their videos on MTV, and listened to that cassette until it wore out.

I wrote that extremely dated paragraph to prove a point — fans want to interact with artists based on images. And those most iconic artist images, their album covers, are key points of entry for many listeners. Luckily iTunes and Spotify haven’t destroyed album cover art — they simply made it another image to be shared and utilized.

ThingLink makes it easy for artists to transform an album image into a shareable container for music, videos and social connection. Now I don’t have to go to the library and page through back issues for more information on an artist. Inside an album image I can click on a link and read a blog post in a nanosecond. Ditto for waiting for a video to show up on the TV — just hit the YouTube link. And while listening to a new track once required waiting for radio to spin it, now it’s a matter of hitting a Soundcloud music player. And…well, you get the picture.

People, especially kids, still get excited about album releases. And what better way to connect news about the album with an interactive cover that contains music, video and more. In a way, it’s almost like going back to days of unfolding vinyl albums or CD booklets — people want to interact with the album art, but now they have an even deeper way to do it.

Take the cover of the recently announced Bruno Mars single, “It Will Rain,” which is also the lead track from the forthcoming Twilight soundtrack. The album cover shows Mars slouched beneath an umbrella and featured links to the Twilight trailer as well as his social media properties. It created the right mix of branding (rain, the umbrella) with an air of mystery — there was really no way to tell what the song was about, merely a call to keep following and figuring it out.

And what Mars’s team did is just the beginning. As I talked about in my previous post, a label could make a game out of spreading pieces of the cover and clips of a track around the web and asking fans to help put it together. Album announcements could feature a recorded clip from an artist with a special message that is changed daily, or pulled after 100 listens. Different pieces of the album art could feature different song clips.

 

The days of buying cassettes at the mall are long over (and thankfully, the associated hairstyles are lost to the ages, too) but the desire to interact with album artwork is as alive as ever.

Cortney Harding is a music evangelist for start-ups, including ThingLink and official.fm. She was previously the music editor and indies correspondent at Billboard magazine, and knows way too much about the music industry for any sane person. Follow her on Twitter or on Tumblr.

 

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ThingLink Launches e-Commerce Tags For iTunes And Topspin, Offers New Options For SoundCloud Users

ThingLink, the provider of in-image interaction tools and Rich Media Tags, today announced the creation of exclusive e-commerce tags for Apple Inc’s online retail platform, iTunes and independent artist promotional platform, Topspin. Artists hosting their music through wider audio creators platform SoundCloud can now also import third party ‘buy’ links to their profiles via ThingLink’s Rich Media Tag system.

From today, music artists and their promoters can embed ‘buy now’ links to iTunes or to a Topspin custom store in the images they use throughout the web. Any hosted image – from artist pictures, album cover art or event photography – can now be converted into an ad hoc music store, providing an innovative and engaging new method of getting new music into the hands of those who want it most.

“By providing an embeddable, direct route to purchase, ThingLink’s e-commerce tags remove another barrier between artists and fans looking to buy their music,” commented Neil Vineberg, ThingLink CMO. “As a team we’re keen to progress the conversation on how music retail is evolving, and teaming up with platforms of the calibre of iTunes, Topspin and SoundCloud can only help us to achieve that aim.”

First announced in June this year, ThingLink has brought a new dimension to images on the web via Rich Media Tags, transforming static images into navigational platforms. From hand-drawn artwork to professional photography, Rich Media Tags can be applied to any image and already allow the in-image embedding of links from some of the world’s leading social content platforms such as YouTube, Spotify, Wikipedia, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and many more.

“We at Topspin are fans of any method of distributing artist offers, especially when the method is as simple and powerful as adding ‘buy now’ links to artist images,” says Ian Rogers, Topspin CEO. “Photos are a big source of traffic for artists, so it makes sense to attach links to artist offers and let those images travel the web.”

For more information on creating Rich Media Tags, visit ThingLink or check out out most awesome Music Guide instructing you how to make the most out of the service.

 

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Guest Post: Cortney on ThingLink

Going in to my first pitch as a consultant to ThingLink, I have to admit I was a little bit skeptical. Sure, it took about three minutes for me to be completely sold on the product — sitting in a freezing room at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York, I saw a demo and immediately wanted to be part of the team. But would my contacts in the music industry feel the same way? I had set up a nice handful of meetings to showcase the product, sure, but were these folks just doing me a favor because they knew me from my days as an editor at Billboard? What had I gotten myself into, anyway?

About ten minutes in to the meeting, I saw the label president’s eyes light up as she slowly said “this. is. so. cool.” And then I knew I had made the right choice.

We get that reaction a lot, and I joke that ThingLink is the dream client — the product is easy to use, free, and offers infinite possibilities. And people in the music industry are starting to see it that way, too, for the most part. I’m constantly excited by the level of creativity and thoughtfulness in the ThingLinked images labels and managers send me.

In some way, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. People in music are creative types, and if any artist ever tells you they aren’t concerned with and invested in their image, they are lying. Even those who cultivate an unwashed, slacker air, do so with the utmost care. Some, like Lady Gaga and Kanye West, are open about creating and manipulating their visuals, while others pretend not to mind (but you know they paid $200 for that perfect bedhead haircut, and those shredded Rogan jeans don’t come for free, either).

But once an artist had created the perfect visual and hired a great photographer to commit it to film, there was nothing else they could do with it. Until ThingLink. Now, an artist, label, manager, or publicist can take that perfectly crafted, often not-cheap-to-capture image, and use it as a jumping off point for telling a story, creating a puzzle, or driving commerce.

 

Storytelling:

Alex Damashek is great indie hip-hop manager, and used ThingLink within his own site to tell the stories of each of this artists. Where he previously had a list of links, Alex embedded audio, video, and links in photos of each of his artists and let ThingLink tell the tale. It’s a great way to get viewers to explore the page, click around, and listen and learn.

     

 

Commerce: Thanh Nguyen was an early adopter who understood the power of ThingLink and used it to drive interest in the new albums by Simple Plan and Shadows on Stars. He went so far as to have Simple Plan actually make a video explaining the product and driving users to play around and pre-order the new album. In the first few hours, the click through rate for the image was over fifty percent.

 

Social media:

Ed Kiang at Wind-Up is a digital genius, and used Thinglink to tag an image of Evanescence with links to all the band’s social media platforms. It was a great way to announce the band’s new album, get fans excited, and make sure they were aware of all the band’s online properties.

   

 

Ticketing and events: The new Eventbrite tag could be used to sell tickets to the event, as well as embedding video of the opening acts to get fans excited enough to come early and check them out. In the past, there were too many steps between seeing a poster for an event and actually buying a ticket, but with the Eventbrite tag, the process is seamless.

 

And I could go on and on, listing examples, but that seems like a cheap way to flesh out a post. And this is all the process of a summer’s worth of work — who knows what will happen in the next three months (six months, year)?

I think we’re just scratching the surface of what the music industry can do with ThingLink. One idea I’ve tossed around is to break an album cover into six parts, assign a clip of a new track to each, and then spread that all over the web for fans to find. The traffic could potentially go through the roof as fans tried to figure out the puzzle. ThingLink can also be used for announcements and brand partnerships — link up whatever a stylish artist happens to be wearing to an ecommerce platform and watch the fans click away.

Only a few months after that first, nerve wracking meeting, I’ve come to see the disruptive, amazing power of ThingLink for music. And, to quote that cheesy song you’ve heard way too many times, “we’ve only just begun.”

 

Cortney Harding is a music evangelist for start-ups, including ThingLink and official.fm. She was previously the music editor and indies correspondent at Billboard magazine, and knows way too much about the music industry for any sane person. Follow her on Twitter or on Tumblr.

Meet Cortney and the ThingLink team:
September 12th – San Francisco Music Tech Summit, Hotel Kabuki
September 13th – Tech Crunch Disrupt, San Francisco Design Center Concourse

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ThingLink expert comment: Tools for Your Band

We invited tech public relations guru and musician Neil Vineberg to reflect upon his work with ThingLink and the benefits the tagging tool has for bands and music agencies. Enjoy.

:::

As an indie artist with a #1 world music CD, “Sacred Love,” I know first-hand the challenges faced by artists seeking to successfully promote music and engage fans online.

Do it yourself musicians today need know social media, digital rights management, distribution, touring and other fields of expertise to really compete. What’s exciting is that many of the tools and platforms now available to musicians allow them to operate their brand just like a record label.

The challenge for artists remains knowing the nuances of these often complex tools, how they work and and how they might best integrate together. That’s why I was honored to represent ThingLink on the Tools for Your Band panel at the recent San Francisco MusicTech Summit with J. Sider from RootMusic, Jaunique Sealey from Atom Digital, Josh Builder from The Orchard, Christopher LaRosa from YouTube and moderator Jolie O’Dell from Mashable.

My colleagues and I spoke about platforms and successful promotion strategies. I also shared my perspective as an artist and how I used some of the tools in my tool box.  Most artists I talked to agreed that photos are probably their most valuable marketing and branding tool, next to their actual music. So imagine if you could make your photos 10 to 50 times more engaging with fans?

That’s where ThingLink came into the conversation. We turn images into a platform for smart, in-image tags to your music, video, social media touch points, fan site, band site and points of purchase.  Everywhere you want a fan to go to experience your music, can be added INSIDE an image. So the image is much more than just a really great asset for a band. It’s now an interactive engagement tool. And one of the most powerful ones in your took box.

When your creative assets are bundled inside your photos, you’ll see fans engaging, because we also give you a social dashboard to track image views, hovers and clicks. And you’re likely to see click-through-rates that will be music to your ears.

After you set up an account at ThingLink, RT me @nvineberg and maybe we can feature you in our music gallery.

 

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ThingLink and SoundCloud Announce Innovative Collaboration of Technologies

San Francisco, March 8, 2011 ThingLink, the provider of image interaction tools, and SoundCloud, the fast-growing audio platform, today announced an innovative collaboration of technologies that enables anyone to add sound and music directly to their images.  For the first time, it is possible to link a SoundCloud waveform player to any photo or picture, thereby connecting the subject to sounds, music and effects, voice annotations and narrations.

This collaboration means that SoundCloud’s more than three million registered audio creators will be able to bring additional context, interactivity and meaning to both their sounds and the images that inspire them; whether it’s to a promotional flyer, a memorable photograph or an album cover artwork.  By simply scrolling over the uploaded image, a series of ‘hotspots’ appear, each one linking to a sound that can be played directly from within the picture. By using Thinglink, users can also include links to social networks, blogs, news and commerce web sites, as well as email.

“Images and sound are a natural combination and really compliment each other,” said Ulla-Maaria Engeström, ThingLink CEO.  “Context invites clicks, and sound adds a new dimension to images, be it fan shots, fashion photos, or family albums.”

 

Alexander Ljung, founder and CEO of SoundCloud said, “This simple concept of linking sound to the images that are meaningful to you opens up endless opportunities to audio creators. Not only will it change the way artists promote themselves, their music and their live shows, but it will also allow people to add narrative to their holiday snaps, verbal descriptions to their designs or funny soundbites to their illustrations.”

An example of how this new collaboration of technologies is already being embraced, includes: Paper Garden Records, a NY-based record company and music promoter, who has created an interactive flyer for their bands at SXSW. They use ThingLink tags to link the flyer to their music samples on SoundCloud, as well as website, party venue, Facebook page and sponsors. When flyers are shared onwards via Facebook, Twitter and email, the interactive hotspots follow and bring traffic back to Paper Garden Record’s website. Further sound-filled images, including Moby, Beck and The Smashing Pumpkins, can be viewed at gallery.thinglink.com

 

Want to add your sounds to your website’s images? The process is quick and easy:

  1. Set up a free account at ThingLink.com and Soundcloud.com.
  2. Install a few lines of ThingLink javascript on your website or blog
  3. When you input a SoundCloud URL into a tag’s link field, a player appears in your tag.  Click it and it starts playing the track in the background

For more information, or to sign-up for FREE, please visit ThingLink.com and SoundCloud.com

About ThingLink

ThingLink, launched in 2008 by Ulla Engeström, develops tools for image interaction that allow content sharing via online images. ThingLink technology changes the way people interact with photos by transforming them into a surface for advertising, commerce, entertainment, search and social connection.  Brands, publishers and bloggers utilize ThingLink in their images to share links, drive traffic, and set up image-based advertising campaigns.

About SoundCloud

SoundCloud, launched in 2008 by Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss, is an audio platform that enables anyone to create, record, promote and share their sounds on the web, in a simple, accessible and feature-rich way.  SoundCloud allows sound creators to instantly record audio; upload large files; share them publicly and privately; embed sound across websites and blogs; receive detailed analytics, plus feedback from the community directly onto their waveform player.

For more information, please contact:

  • Neil Vineberg (ThingLink)
    631-377-1494
    Email: neil (a)ThingLink.com
  • Alice Regester (SoundCloud)
    +44 7758 834 646
    Email: alice(a)soundcloud.com
  • Christopher Buttner (Vineberg Communications)
    415-233-7350
    Email: chris (a)vinebergcommunications.com
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